My mother died when I was 17 and art saved my life. I was lucky enough to go to a very well-funded public school in Barrington, Illinois, with incredible teachers. After school I joined the Navy, went to Desert Storm, and again I got through it by drawing and writing. Five years ago my family and I lost our home when I could no longer work due to Gulf War syndrome. We were homeless and our lives were reduced to a suitcase and my art until a fire took that too—luckily I had photographed it all and posted it online. I now am very sick, but still able to write, illustrate, and sketch. I also just wrote my first book dedicated to my dad, who we lost in 2011, called Looking Back. My dad always taught me to never let anything stand in the way of my dreams, and so after reading his memoirs about growing up in our town I decided to add mine, along with songs from both generations and some historical facts. The arts are everything to me and without them I could not have survived this long.